Friday, February 26, 2016

Smackin' It Raw: The Diva's Revolution, The History

            Who doesn’t like complaining online about wrestling and how WWE did it wrong and how you can do it better? Everyone does so damnit I’m gonna do it now as well! The topic? The much wanted, anticipated and up until recently (I’ll always give credit where it’s due) botched Divas Revolution.  In this article, which I have split up into two posts, I’ll give you the background, what happened and where we are now with this revolution, pretty much a brief history. Then in post I’ll talk about how I would have done things differently because, well its just fun to see other people’s interpretations of what could have been.

Part 1: Before The Revolution

            The Divas Revolution started out like many revolutions, with the people rebelling against what they were being given and demanding a change.  In this case it was the WWE divas.  The Divas would go out to wrestle but would usually end up with about three to five minutes of TV time in a three HOUR show, I say TV time because its very important to distinguish the aforementioned TV time with the time they were given to wrestle.  Nearly every time there is a match we also get the entrances for both people competing in the match so if the divas get five minutes of TV time its important to know that about a minute and a half to two minutes would be used for the divas to come to the ring and whatever TV is left goes to the match. If only given only three minutes TV time that’s about a one-minute match. 

The WWE Diva's Championship.

During one particular week the divas were given an epically short time to wrestle, less than one minute, and the fans had had enough. They went to Twitter and started #GiveDivasAChance. This hashtag trended for days and forced WWE to take notice that the fans wanted change within the divas division.  Before to long WWE responded to #GiveDivasAChance with their own tweet that ensured everyone that changes would be made.

WWE Diva's Champion Nikki Bella.
            It started the very next week when the divas TV time increased but a slight increase in TV time was only one thing the fans wanted.  Soon a storyline started up with fan favourite diva Paige accusing divas champion Nikki Bella along with twin sister Brie Bella of holding down the divas division and that they were only on top because of who they were with in their personal lives, John Cena and Danial Bryan respectively. Paige challenged the rest of the WWE divas to stand up against The Bella Twins and fight back if they ever wanted things to change.  Of course Paige was on her own and none of the other diva’s would stand up against The Bella’s with her.

            It was a promising start, Paige was expressing the frustration of all of the fans out there and if was happening on TV then it was just going to be a matter of time, a short amount of time, until the change took shape on TV.  Everyone also knew how that change would take shape, the women of NXT.

Part 2: NXT

First off a little background on NXT. One of the reasons fans wanted The Divas Revolution was because they saw what was happening in NXT.  For those unaware NXT is WWE’s developmental system where their future wrestlers both male and female hone their craft before being called up to the main roster on WWE’s main shows Raw and Smackdown! In NXT it is also important to establish that the girls are called “women” instead of “divas” which is another step forward. Also in NXT the WOMEN are given time to go out there and wrestle. A typical NXT show is only one hour long instead of the three hours given on Raw but on NXT the women are often given up to ten minutes to wrestle, not including the entrances.  Think about that for a moment, the divas on Raw get five minutes TV time total on a three-hour show where as the women on NXT get upwards of ten minutes plus on a one-hour show and is frequently featured in the coveted main event spot. There is something that just isn’t quite right about that. 
The NXT Women's Championship.
Also the women on NXT had become much better wrestlers than their diva counterparts, both because they are given more time and because they are actual wrestlers as opposed to models who transitioned into a wrestling role which WWE had made a habit of doing for years, case and point divas champion Nikki Bella and sister Brie as well as a host of several other divas on the main roster.

            The NXT women had been tearing it up for a while by the point #GiveDivasAChance started which is one of the main reasons the hashtag happened in the first place. The fans saw the amazing matches the women were capable of and they wanted that on the main roster.  In particular, they wanted Charlotte and current NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks.

            Charlotte and Sasha Banks weren’t the only women making waves in NXT though, others amazing stand outs were Becky Lynch and Bayley. These four women comprised a group called “The Four Horsewomen” a play off of the infamous Four Horsemen that dominated the business in the NWA and WCW for years in the 1980’s and 1990’s which included Charlotte’s father and one of the greatest wrestlers in history with Ric Flair leading the charge. The Four Horsewomen were never a group on TV though and more of a backstage group since these were primarily the four women that had been tearing it up in NXT.

Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, The Four Horsewomen.
That isn’t to say they were the only ones though with established WWE diva and all around great wrestler Natayla Nidehart of the infamous Hart family sharing her skills and knowledge, as well as other up and comers such as Emma, Summer Rae and of course the first NXT Women’s Champion Paige. All of them had since been called up to the main roster to varying success with Paige doing great, Summer Rae being given a more managerial role and Emma being comic relief. Only Paige was turning any real heads.  Summer Rae hardly ever got to showcase her considerable wrestling talent and when she did get the chance it was all to brief and the fans never got to see her have a real chance to wrestle on the main roster.  Emma feared even worse she was put in a horrible comedy role with Santino Marella, who had been just a comedic joke for years, she never stood a chance and was eventually sent back to NXT.

The Four Horsewomen continued to thrive under The NXT banner though. A combination of any two or four of them would consistently put on one of the best if not the best match on every NXT card.  After #GiveDivasAChance picked up speed and Paige started to address the concerns herself on Raw WWE knew exactly how to kick start the Divas Revolution.

Part 3: You say you want a Revolution?

            Back to WWE and after several weeks of being beaten down by The Bella Twins as well as being ignored by her fellow divas in her quest for change things finally came to a head.  Paige was once again in the ring railing on The Bella’s now also flanked by Alicia Fox who went with the thought of “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” The Diva’s Revolution finally started.  Stephanie McMahon, one of the principal owners of WWE and in storylines the evil daughter of Vince McMahon came to the ring.  She had agreed with Paige and said that a revolution was needed. She sited women dominating other sports such as Rhonda Rousey in UFC and The William’s Sisters in tennis and said it was about time WWE did the same, that it was time to show that women could be just as good as the men inside a wrestling ring.

Without further adue Stephanie breathed some fresh life in the divas roster first introducing a surprise in the form of Becky Lynch.  Although one of the four horsewomen of NXT Becky wasn’t expected to get her call up just yet so it was a great way to start things off.  Becky came to the ring and joined Paige against the three members of what was now being called Team Bella.  Stephanie wasn’t done yet though as she next introduced one of the women expected to get the call up Charlotte who also joined Paige and Becky.  The six women all started sizing each other up and it was clear a fight was about to start but not before Naomi, another diva that had been toiling in WWE trying to make a name for herself for quite some time came out flanked by Tamina Snuka.  Naomi said that there would be no divas revolution without them which made Stephanie bring out the final new member of the roster Sasha Banks, who joined the side of Naomi and Tamina.  With the addition of Becky, the thoughts of Sasha also making her debut on the main roster was nearly dashed, she was still after all the NXT Women’s Champion and so logically she had unfinished business there but she still made her debut as well.  Now with all nine women in the ring Stephanie stepped out and the first brawl between all nine of them took place. The battle lines were drawn we had WWE Diva’s Champion Nikki Bella, Brie Bella and Alicia Fox representing “Team Bella”, Paige, Charlotte and Becky Lynch representing “The Submission Sorority” which was changed a week later to “Team PCB” after a quick google search showed that The Submission Sorority was also the name of a popular porn website, and Naomi, Sasha Banks and Tamina Snuka representing “Team B.A.D.” or Beautiful and Dangerous.  After some quick fighting all three new members of the roster each put a Team Bella member in their respective submission finishers having all three tap out immediately.  The fans chanted “This is awesome” after finally getting what they wanted for so long and we were off to the races, The Diva’s Revolution had finally begun.

The three NXT stand outs made a strong debut.

            The next week on Raw the divas were given much more airtime, nearly twenty minutes, another great step forward and had matches with combinations of the three teams.  Once again the fans chanted “This is awesome” and all was right with The WWE Universe.  Unfortunately, this was the start of a bad trend. Every week all we would get would be tag match after tag match showcasing the three teams but there in lied the problem. If every week a combination of the nine divas, wrestled each other no one got to actually stand out and show what they could really do or who they really were. To the fans watching who had no prior knowledge of the three new divas and had not watch NXT they were just that, three new divas. There was nothing overly special about either of them.  On top of that the WWE Diva’s Championship was never being defended.  If that is the prize that all the diva’s want, then why is it just a background piece to put around the waist of Nikki Bella? If the most important prize never came into play, then its importance ceased.  No one cared.  Why were there no singles matches? Why did the fans have to suffer through only tag team matches where no one came out looking special?  Why did they all have to be segmented into teams anyways?  One of the worst moments came when Nikki Bella, The Diva’s champion herself said that winning and losing doesn’t matter.  With that comment people began to care even less and it also showed another major difference between the WWE divas and the NXT women since only twenty-five hours earlier in the very same building, Bayley defeated Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Title and if winning and losing didn’t matter those two never got the memo as tears of joy flowed freely from both women’s faces after an amazing match that many considered match of the year.

            This went on for months before WWE realized that they were squandering a potentially great thing.  The same fans who had chanted “This is awesome” were now once again taking to Twitter and other social media to complain once again.  It seemed like a case of being careful for what you wish for because WWE will take it and ruin it for you. “You want Charlotte and Sasha Banks? We’ll give them to you and we’ll even surprise you with Becky Lynch but by the time we are done you will wish you never asked for it in the first place so stop you whining and let us give you what we want to give you because THAT is what is best for business.”  To their credit though WWE didn’t do that, they knew that had potential new stars and soon singles matches were finally starting to happen.  The timing was great too since Nikki Bella was about to become the longest reigning diva’s champion in WWE history so they had a built in storyline, lets just forget about the part where she never defended it and it was pretty much an after thought for months, it was time to get serious about this.

Team Bella: Brie Bella, Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox.

            On the eve of Nikki becoming the longest reigning diva’s champion in WWE history Charlotte had a title shot, she could end it all here and stop the evil Nikki Bella from gaining such a distinction.  Naturally the heels got intentionally disqualified meaning they came out on top since the title couldn’t change hands over a disqualification and Nikki Bella became the longest reigning champion.  Fan’s hated it, they wanted this talentless model who couldn’t wrestle to lose the championship to someone who was clearly much better in the ring. 

Let me take a moment to interject here, although The Bella Twins started off as models who had no place in a WWE ring, both improved considerably and can now hold their own, are they the best?  No but that doesn’t mean they are not capable and the fact that they are so reviled only makes things better from a storyline stand point, why wouldn’t you want the most hated person to get one over on the hero?  It just makes it all the better when the hero finally does triumph.

Team B.A.D.: Tamina Snuka, Sasha Banks and Naomi.
            Fans wouldn’t have to wait much longer though, due to the controversial end to the match Stephanie McMahon made a rematch six days later at their Night of Champions pay-per-view in which if Nikki Bella got her disqualified again or counted out the Diva’s Championship would still change hands and Charlotte would become the champion.  There would be a definitive winner this time around and this time Charlotte would indeed defeat Nikki Bella by submission ending her record 301-day title reign and in the process also becoming The WWE Diva’s Champion.

Team PCB: Becky Lynch, Paige and Charlotte.
With Charlotte now The Diva’s Champion the Diva’s Revolution was about to take a turn in the right direction though that isn’t to say that there still weren’t plenty more bumps along the way.  First though there was a positive move in which the fans were finally able to see the new divas personalities.  Charlotte the new champion became the centerpiece of the division which is great, now we are finding out what make her tick.  At the same time though Team PCB partner Paige had gotten jealous of Charlotte’s success and turned her back on her partners effectively ending the group.  It was Paige now a villain vs. Charlotte with Becky Lynch caught in the middle, well at least that is what I think was supposed to happen but Becky was more so just brushed off to the side.

            Becky wasn’t the only one brushed off to the side though as all other six divas that had been up to this point a part of the Divas Revolution was also brushed off. Maybe WWE realized that the fans didn’t want or focus on so many others at once but with this move they also took all of these other divas that the fans were supposed to care about so much and basically said they are over there and unimportant at the moment, which was especially aggravating to Sasha Banks fans since she was the one most fans wanted the most, which was easy to tell by the consistent “We want Sasha” chants.

            What we got though was new champion Charlotte vs. newly bad girl Paige.  Nothing against Paige she is one of the most popular divas on the roster and definitely one of the best wrestlers but she had by this point been around WWE for a while so it made sense that the fans may have wanted a different challenger (We want Sasha after all) but for now it was good.  Personally I just saw it as a way to break up the teams, even if it was just Team PCB at the start to begin a stronger focus on the divas one by one.  Up first was the already established Paige who would be used to make Charlotte more popular and a known quantity to the fans who may not of watched NXT.

Paige and Diva's Champion Charlotte.
            During one episode of Raw the Divas Revolution seemed in full effect and like WWE was trying harder than ever.  We had a decent divas match on the show, though I honestly forget who was involved, much more importantly though the entire show was building to a contract signing for the divas title at the next PPV with Charlotte and Paige in the main event segment of the show.  There is no more coveted place to be than the main event of the show, the spot that leaves people wanting to tune in next week or buy the upcoming PPV.  To put the divas in such a spot had only been done a couple of times before in the over twenty-year history of Raw so yes, it was a big deal and it did make it feel like we should care about these people.

            Then the segment happened and frankly it all went straight to hell.  Don’t get me wrong both Paige and Charlotte did a good job on the mic and sounded like they belonged there, they had the passion in their voices when talking about the Divas Championship that had been long gone.  They talked about their history, Charlotte mentioned when she first got to NXT that Paige was already there for a while and had trail blazed what women’s wrestling would be in NXT and what it could be in WWE.  Instead of making her challenger feel beneath her Charlotte spoke of Paige as an equal and not some one that she could just beat before moving on to the next challenger, you felt that respect.  Charlotte also mentioned how it was Paige that had been there for her as comfort when her younger brother Reid Flair had died of a drug overdose in 2013.  She said that she is where she is today because of Reid and that she had dedicated her career to his memory.  It was real emotion, something that is rarely seen in WWE today from the male competitors let alone their “inferior” female counterparts but on this night they were the stars.  Then it all went to hell when Paige said that she never cared about Charlotte and said “Your little brother didn’t have much fight in him, did he?” After that Charlotte leaped over the table that was between them and the two engaged in a massive pull apart brawl.

            Everything was going so great until that comment. After that it was all over, that one sentence was all anyone was talking about.  Not only was it a controversial thing to say but even worse although Charlotte may have had previous knowledge that the comment was coming Ric Flair and his ex-wife, parents of Reid, had no idea it was coming and was incredibly insensitive.  They had lost their son only two years prior and now that wound had been reopened for the whole world to see.  On top of that Reid Flair had never competed in WWE so most fans had no prior knowledge of him before Charlotte mentioned him earlier in the segment, there was never any need to bring him up in the first place they were doing just fine having them just fight over the title.  Reid’s mother went on social media bashing WWE for doing it saying it was cruel to do so just for a storyline and especially without giving the parents any prior knowledge.  Ric Flair was also very upset by the situation but kept from saying what he really wanted in fear of hurting his daughters career.  It was a clusterfuck of immediate bad publicity that WWE never brought up again.

            The match happened at the next PPV which was ok but for the most part underwhelming and ultimately forgettable with Charlotte getting the win over the vile Paige and moving on to the next challenger.

Part 4: Finally Making Strides

            It was nothing if not a rough first couple of months for The Divas Revolution but it was after the Charlotte and Paige feud ended before The Divas Revolution finally started to make any real strides and get to where people finally wanted it at the start.

            The teams all pretty much went away for one reason or another. Team PCB was obviously the first with Paige turning on Charlotte and Becky Lynch and then with Charlotte herself turning on Becky to become a heel champion managed by her double hall of fame father Ric Flair and patterning her character more along the lines of Ric Flair’s heel character from the 1980’s. Team Bella pretty much went their own way when Nikki went down with a serious neck injury and finally Team B.A.D. (remember them?) disbanded after Sasha Banks left the group to pursue singles competition leading to Naomi and Tamina to turn on her.

            It still wasn't all sunshine and rainbows though.  Despite Charlotte and Becky Lynch having great matches a lot of that was over shadowed by the negative yet again when during their match at The Royal Rumble, which had a great build up, while trying to distract Becky from the match against his daughter Flair grabbed Becky and planted a kiss on her.  This feud had been going great and an unwanted sexual advance from one person to another was just uncomfortable and added nothing to what was going on aside from distracting from how good the match had been up to that point.  Suddenly it felt wrong and uncomfortable.  I know that it is within Ric Flair's heel character to do something like this but it isn't the 80's, 90's, or even 00's when this was "acceptable" in wrestling now its very outdated and uncomfortable, and no it isn't uncomfortable because Ric Flair is 67 and Becky Lynch is 38 years Flair's junior at only 29 either, though it certainly doesn't help matters.  The rest of the match was tainted and people were not longer able to enjoy it like they had before.  All that said the match was good and aside from that one awful moment was everything that it needed to be.  The real highlight though was after the match had come to an end and Sasha Banks came out to a monstrous response from the crowd. Excitement about Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks was huge.

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte.
           Despite the amount of growing pains the divas division has had this proved that they are indeed on the right track.  The focus of the division has really been put back on the title where it belongs and wins and losses matter again, you want to see your favorite win the title now, look no further to the reaction Sasha Banks got at The Royal Rumble.  More emphasis has been put on singles matches and developing one character at a time as it should have been in the first place as well as finally giving the three divas that were supposed to jump start the revolution time to finally shine and show why the women’s matches in NXT were so praised in the first place.  On Raw now people more excited for the divas matches and they are no longer positioned in the dead spot of the show immediately after something exciting and before something else that was supposed to be enjoyed more, it is no longer a buffer or bathroom break for the fans and can now be one of those exciting segments.

            There may still be a way to go as of yet but things are finally steadily improving now.  When Sasha Banks came out after the Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch match at The Royal Rumble people were genuinely excited and wanted to see what would happen next, that moment was one of the loudest moments of the night if you are judging it from a viewer’s point of view at home.  If the fans in the building are going nuts and think that someone is special, then the fans at home will also believe and cheer for those people when they go to the live events.

While things are finally on the right track there are a few more things to do. First off the announcers need to stop using the worlds “divas revolution” so much if you want it to be a revolution and are given content that seems revolutionary you don’t need someone cramming that verbiage down your throat, you will know it and call it that yourself.  Secondly and most importantly they need to just drop the whole “diva” tag as it is.  The women in WWE have all pretty much said that they hate the word diva and that it conveys a poor stereotype, diva is a word that traditionally enforces negative thoughts about a woman, not positive.  Many of these women have said that they would love to be the one to get rid of The WWE Diva’s Championship and bring back The WWE Women’s Championship again and I have a feeling it won’t be to long until one of them does just that.

            And with that we are pretty much all caught up to date so far.  Wrestlemania, the biggest event of the year is fast approaching and I wouldn’t be surprised to see two divas matches on the card, a featured match for The Diva’s Championship itself as well as either a tag match or battle royal or something to that extent that allow as many of the divas on the roster to get a chance to be on the card. 

            This will also wrap up the first of two posts about The Diva’s Revolution and the next post will be the one where we really get to go off the rails and have fun.  I am of course talking about some good old fashioned fantasy booking where I will go to back in time to when this whole thing started and do it all the way I would have done it with the benefit of hindsight being 20/20 because let’s face it, its easy to tell people how you would do it better when someone else has already failed in doing so.

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